With little appetite for modular housing on Van. Island, homeless advocates say province needs to step in


WATCH: With tent cities becoming a common sight across B.C., advocates say there’s a lot of finger pointing between governments but not a lot of action on modular housing. April Lawrence reports.

A group of about 20 homeless people moved into Goldstream Provincial Park campground this week saying all they want is a home.

“We just want a one bedroom suite, apartment, basement suite, doesn’t matter, we don’t care,” said Don who is staying at the park.

The province says it wants to provide homes and has funding for 2,000 modular units available to B.C. municipalities. All they have to do is provide the land.

But it turns out that hasn’t been easy as many municipalities are resistant.

“With all the things that happened in Victoria, in Saanich, do you think I can go into a neighbourhood and get a re-zoning for these types of housing? For tent city housing? It’s not going to happen,” said Langford Mayor Stewart Young.

Earlier this year, Nanaimo city council cancelled plans for a modular housing development after outcry from neighbours and just this week, Duncan council voted down a 15-bed women’s shelter after strong opposition.

With a growing number of tent cities and no shelter space available, housing advocates say the province needs to just get it done.

“It seems that most municipalities don’t want the problem or the solution. The province has the expertise and the resources to site and rezone land and they need to take those steps immediately,” said Emily Rogers, legal advocate for Together Against Poverty Society.

But B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson insists the solution to the homelessness crisis has to be a partnership.

“None of us can do this alone, I think our residents, I think British Columbia’s expect our levels of government work together to address these concerns,” she said.

“We are bringing online a significant capital as well as operational, we’re even asking for temporary use of land, we don’t even need long-term use.”

There are 2,064 units of modular housing either complete or under development across the province but of those only 157 units are on Vancouver Island:

  • 833 Hillside Ave, Victoria – 21 units
  • 988 8th Ave, Courtenay – 46 units
  • 222 Corfield St, Parksville – 55 units
  • 3939 8th St, Port Alberni – 35 units

Just this week Saanich also proposed 40 to 50 units of modular housing on city-owned land.

The Victoria project is slated for land owned by the province and already zoned so the city’s mayor admits the process was a little easier. But Lisa Helps insists municipalities can still help out without coughing up the land.

“Look at their assets, what’s vacant what could be used even just over the winter to shelter people?” she questioned.

Helps says that’s what Victoria did when it was home to a tent city in 2016 — opening up a city-owned building on Yates St. for a shelter that’s still in operation.

“There are still 50 people living in a previously vacant city building and it’s working so well,” she said.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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